Monday, April 10, 2017

livin' the dream

Since my time in Rochester during college, I have loved OTTBs deeply. We had a barn full of them up there, and since the lesson horses topped out at 2'6 as a rule, my trainer A kept it interesting for me (I was braver back then haha) by giving me "project" horses to get going in the program. The jumps stayed the same but the horses were greener and more complicated.

we can look v serious with 2' jumps
After two OTTB projects (Lad and Ellie Mae) I was hooked. Those two were each very different creatures, sure, but I felt like I understood them both and enjoyed the work with them very much.

bc jumping is fun!
So I became fairly convinced my first horse should be off the track. And I kinda figured I'd get something that had already been re-started. When the day finally came last fall where I could actually commence shopping for my first horse ever, I shopped accordingly.

But I also stayed open-minded to doing the re-starting myself with the right horse. And as you all already know, I found that horse in Charlie.

tho since green horses will be green, sometimes it's a different ride every time haha
And I am just having so much fun with him in this whole re-starting process. Really truly. He actually reminds me a lot of Lad in some ways* (follow the above link for photographic evidence, which makes me happy bc I seriously <3'd that horse), and he's just a genuine good boy.

(*tho Lad was all heart, whereas Charlie is much more cerebral. Charlie's got heart for sure, but he's a thinker first and foremost)

wheeeeee canter <3
Of course anyone who has been reading along for any length of time also knows that I suffer from faltering confidence on occasion. It's been an ongoing issue since getting back into the saddle after taking 4 years off post college. And it's why this blog is titled 'Fraidy Cat Eventing, vs anything like "Totally Got My Shit Together Eventing."

and sometimes we make it into AND out of a line all in one piece. #learning
The lack of confidence has nothing to do with the latest horse to be featured on this blog, Charlie (Who will hopefully be the headlining star for a long time to come!). But it remains ever present.

he's a good horse, guys
I remind myself of this often, by looking back at old (and very old) blog posts where I write about this same topic. Who remembers the jump of doom? Or my flimsy bravado going into Isabel's and my first ever cross country in a three phase event?

Or when I wrote at the onset of the following 2015 season about how the tides were finally turning? And of course that year eventually proved to be our swan song in many ways, but I digress...

can we take a moment to appreciate this tail tho? it's very different from izzy's, but it truly has a character and flow of its own. and is goddamn majestic. also i maybe bought this horse for his hair.... #justsayin
The point here, if there is one, is that confidence just kinda ebbs and flows. For me, it is highly dependent on routine. I'm at my best when things feel normal. Mundane. Run of the mill. I know what's up, and I know what to expect. If I can make a thing feel like it's no big deal, eventually it becomes self fulfilling prophecy.

As such, I flourished in a routine that included two jump lessons a week. My hope is to return to that, tho logistics are still an issue. We'll see.

i also appreciate his heart
For now, my weekly dose of Trainer P is a shot in the arm, every time. Charlie is BEGGING to do bigger and badder and better things with his time, and she's more than willing to set up some fun stuff for him. He's got this jump thing figured out and is Gung Ho!

and generally he's just pretty darn fun. we are very uneven right now.... but we are feeling it out. he's gonna be really good.
I'm..... still playing catch up a little bit. And found myself a couple times in our recent lesson with trainer P, an unexpected but coveted(!) private, begging her not to "scare me" by putting the jumps up. She only kinda acquiesced by making her oxers swedish instead of putting them up as much as she (and Charlie) would have liked.

homeboy finds this stuff pretty easy, even when he's still learning the footwork
And she took me to task a fair bit for not riding like I know how. I'm still struggling to find that balance between "allowing" and "guiding" such that I'm riding the horse forward, but not goosing him. The issue is that the horse is quiet...... sure.... but he also has an EASY 14' stride. I've.... never consistently ridden something like this before.

And my cues for opening him up are in serious need of calibration haha, bc he does not need the volume I'm giving him. When I think I'm asking for an inch of go, he hears me asking for a foot. So.... ya know. I need to chill a little bit lol.


So all of our lessons right now focus on getting me to simmer down, relax, and ride the horse. And the horse is just SO GOOD. We struggled a fair bit (you're going to see a LOT of missed distances and a couple knocked rails in both of these videos) but it just feels like growing pains.

Often I felt like the horse was making mistakes when trainer P (who is very honest about who needs to learn which lesson) attributed the mistake to my riding. So I just gotta keep working.

ahhhhh <3 him
We started with a typical warm up by figure-8-ing around the outside line jumps, then practiced over each of the lines in the arena (two 42' diagonals for 3; an outside in 5-6; and another diagonal in 4-5, plus an end jump and inside single). That's all in the warm up video above, which felt like it went pretty well.


Things fell apart a little bit when we put it all together into courses, so we ended up running through the course twice then each individual element again after, just to really solidify each piece. And it was good. Tough. Mostly rider issues. But good.

Plus trainer P had threatened to add in the barrels at the end, and when we absolutely nailed the outside line on our last attempt, I said "I think we ought to be finished on that!"

Haha. Hahaha. No. Trainer P said no to that noise. Obviously. Her point being: the horse is a little bored with this height. He's got it figured out. He's 17h+ and the jumps are 2'3. That's not exactly calculus. He wants something to jump and trainer P was determined to give it to him.

the greenest packer there ever was
So we practiced the barrels, which topped out at 2'5, our biggest height together so far. Obvi the horse was fine. Casual, even, haha.

Charlie can't yet exactly be described as a "packer" -- no he's a little green for that yet -- but if I play my cards right, he's gonna get there. Yesssss. I'm already excited haha.

Do you like your horses to be packers? Or have you always gravitated toward the green or complicated? Or some combination thereof, depending on the whens whys and whats? Do you bond with your horse's personality and figure out the skills later, or do you look for a skills player that you'll ultimately get to know in time?

45 comments:

  1. When I was younger, I was all about riding anything I could and felt that a lot of the time I excelled with the green or a little more complicated horses. Now, 100% packer all the way. I want to perch and look pretty while my horse carts it's chicken owner around :)

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    1. haha i totally resemble that remark!! ;)

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  2. So much to love about this post!
    As to your questions I find them hard to answer as I bought Kika to compete and jump in Ireland but then the wheels fell off the bus when we moved to the continent and I had to do some serious rebuilding in my confidence in her. Then Nancy came along a very Zen character by comparison but still not push button either. If I don't ask for things correctly or rush her she gets "zoomy". At the moment i feel like i have the best of bith worlds in my girls. However i do think that if/when I buy avainni will shop for Nancy's brain in a more sporty body as I really would love to jump again.

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    1. aw Nancy has such a good brain! that was definitely how i approached the shopping process too - find something with a good brain in a reasonable body. obvi sometimes we make sacrifices, but the right creature is usually out there to be found!

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  3. Ah that fickle bitch called confidence. I hear you on that issue sister. Completely. I lost whatever little I had managed to build up in myself and the partnership this past weekend in a spectacular fashion and with the bruises to prove it. Even when there isn't a parting of ways and there are more subtle factors eating away at you confidence is such a TRICKY thing and I totally sympathize with you on that one. If you figure out a tried and true way to find it again, I'm all ears. I'm pretty sure my confidence is hiding under the covers someplace...

    As far as packers, I've noticed a thing with mine. He was much more of a packer 5 years ago when we started out. I don't know if it's because I was influencing the ride much less than I'm capable of now and he preferred that. Or if as he gets older, he needs more help from the ride and I am not giving him as much direction as he needs. Especially as the fences go up. This all ties back into my confidence level too, so go figure. I'd be open to the idea of something a lot less experienced, but I'd definitely be seeking the help and input of my trainer as much as possible, for the horses' sake and mine. I think that Charlie is as ideal of a blank slate as they come - willing, with a wonderful mind and a clear enjoyment of the work. Lucky you :)

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    1. you and i already talked about this, but i would say that the key to my own confidence is routine. and i'm putting all my eggs in the basket of expecting that if i just keep practicing, and keep working on these small, well-defined details, things will start clicking back into place.

      it's very important for me not to rush myself and not to put pressure on myself regarding what we "should" be doing or where we "should" be. we are where we are, we're doing what we're doing, and i'm gonna ride the way i'm gonna ride, even if sometimes i really wish i wouldn't haha....

      good luck with smoothing things out again with Sir Duke!

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  4. It would appear, based on my horse owning history, that I'm all about the young and complicated. :)

    That said, I love to have them when young so that I can know what they know. If that makes any sense. Also, there is a true sense of accomplishment of building it yourself.

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    1. definitely agreed on that sense of accomplishment and "knowing what the know." there will be things about charlie that i'll never know (four years as a race horse, after all) but when it comes to his experience as a riding horse, it's all mine :)

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  5. Hell yeah 2'5" - and makin' it look like cake!!

    I don't really think I'd buy a packer ever. My horses each fell into my laps due to various serendipitous situations and so I didn't select them based on anything other than "the time is right". I definitely bond with their personality and help them find the career they like most, but at the same time, I also want to find a sound horse with good conformation that can have the ability to succeed in a variety of disciplines.

    Griffin was a total crapshoot that really worked out in my favor; no one thought he'd turn into the animal he has - and under someone else, he may not have! // Q I selected because I knew she was whole or part Arab, I loved her canter, her jump, and how she handled herself on trail. She seemed perfect for endurance (and has been!) // Stan and I have a history, so it was a no brainer to bring him home when the offer presented. // If I were to get a future horse, I'd like something young that I could start from a clean, blank slate and mold the way I wanted. I'd select based on conformation/breeding something that would have the best likelihood of succeeding in things I enjoy.

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    1. i think there's a lot to be said for taking each horse as they individually come. and you've certainly gotten lucky with a wonderfully unique herd! knowing what you've been able to do with these three, i'd be super curious/excited to see how that all informs your next horse too! and of course i always say this but i can't wait to see how things unfold with Grif this season!

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  6. #When my horse has more majestic hair than me

    I've always enjoyed horses that were more complex or, as lesson barns usually phrased it, more "personality". That being said, I got ridiculously lucky with Quest esp given how I bought her sight unseen all thanks to a nagging gut feeling that she was the one. I'd like her eventually to be a "packer" in the sense I could put someone totally new to riding and have them join me on a trail ride with no drama. Quest has packed around newbies fine in the arena, though I think that's because she is bored out of her mind haha

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    1. aww i love personality too :) and yea i think aspiring for our horses to be beginner-safe is a great goal. it definitely helps act as an insurance policy for the horse too! i think charlie will end up there, and could very realistically have a third career as someone's pet trail horse too

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  7. Look at him go!! You two are progressing so nicely, I love it! I've never really had a packer, but definitely REALLY appreciate a good brain. I want a teachable, sensible horse, no matter if they're green, problem horses, or trained packers! I adore Charlie's mind, he's a special one for sure!

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    1. thanks! he's doing so well, i couldn't be happier with that little almond-sized nugget between his ears lol. bc ya can't train that into them, they gotta be born with it!

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  8. not gonna lie, i want to steal 'totally got my shit together' eventing :P

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    1. hahaha right? my friends and i keep trying to come up with catchy team names.... but i think the irony of that name would be too overwhelming, even for us! lol

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  9. I like complicated. Packers are great and I like riding them on occasion but I get bored with out a challenge.

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    1. yea there's definitely a balance there! often i feel like with packers, the "challenge" transitions from working on the horse itself to working over more complicated and technical exercises. at least for me, there's always something that can challenge me with horses haha

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  10. Charlie making that look like cake!
    Also I don't think I can ever use 'totally got my shit together' to describe anything in my life. At all. Ever.

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    1. omg meeeeeee either lol. and yea this is definitely WAY easier for charlie than it is for me haha. kinda embarrassing but i'm kinda ok with it ;)

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  11. I think if I'd had more experience with packers, I would have been more drawn to them when I was ​doing my own horse shopping. I definitely want to make Murray into that, now that I know it is a thing!!

    Also, Charlie learning and progressing is one of the cutest things ever. It seems like you guys might be hitting a steep moment of many learns right now too which is so exciting!

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    1. omg charlie is figuring it out FAST right now! so many learns!!! i'm still not inclined to speed up the training or rush ahead or anything bc i don't want to risk undermining either of our burgeoning confidence. we shall see!

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  12. It definitely looks like things are clicking!

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  13. Look at you guys jumping barrels, woohoo!! The idea of starting a partnership with a horse that already knows it all makes me want to poke out my eye. I am a complicated magnet. But I have a dream to make them packers. I can see Savvy turning into one, she is just so tolerent of my mistakes and learns very fast. But hopefully she keeps her attitude because that shit is just fun right there. :)

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    1. aw Savvy is such a good girl :) i'm kinda always torn on the whole packer v green debate. obviously i put my money on "green" with charlie, but one of my trainers was advocating very strongly for the packer. and even had me riding his 1* horse a bit to prove his point. bc the benefit of a horse that already knows it all is that *I* most certainly do NOT know it all, and can therefore learn from the horse. like, if i had hypothetically bought Lion (said 1* horse), we would undoubtedly have debuted at novice while i worked on learning the ropes of training, and eventually prelim, where Lion had a proven winning record. the reality is it's unlikely i'll get to those levels with an unproven horse, honestly

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    1. i <3 him!!! just need to get braver!

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  15. I get nervous too. And when I get nervous, I just sit there, and P has to take over, and nooooo one wants that. Because P is spooky. But Charlie just looks awesome. Of course everything feels different when riding than it looks to someone on the ground, but I have to agree that he looks bored. I'm not saying jacking the jumps up is what needs to happen (because then you might say it to me!), but he looks like, "Yep, line...check. What now?"

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    1. ha yup. but just bc he's bored doesn't mean he's educated. so like... just pushing him up over bigger and bigger fences isn't necessarily the answer, esp when i know i'm gonna make mistakes as a rider. bc he's still making a lot of mistakes too. my trainer actually pointed out that he could be an easy horse to make that mistake with too - bc he's so confident and unimpressed, it would be easy to push him too far when he's not actually ready yet. so.... jacking up the jumps isn't likely to be my first thought with him haha. in time tho, in time!

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  16. omg! this is awesome!!! such a good lesson! he's figuring out those long legs of his!!! <3

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    1. we missed you!! i needed you to tell me to be brave haha. it was a good ride tho!

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  17. So much goodness in this post! I'd love if Bailey was a bit more of a "packer" but I've already had semi-difficult jumpers, and generally, I enjoy the challenge. It does, however, take a lot of mental toughness to deal with the less consistent horses and as my anxiety has grown over the past few years I'm really starting to think that while I want to ride forever... I think Bailey is going to be the biggest (ok, maybe second biggest) challenge of my riding career. Her successor will be purchased with an eye towards being more reliable and (probably, as a result) less flashy. I feel like as an adult ammy, I have to balance the joy of the sport with my own physical, mental and training time limitations. Being a grown up sucks.

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    1. yea i mean, i enjoy a challenge too and think it's good to challenge ourselves as riders. tho i think there are different types of challenges, right? like a challenge in just getting the horse to... horse. and a challenge in the technicality of a complicated exercise done well. both have their own rewards!

      also i think it's a fallacy that "flashy" must be sacrificed in the search for "reliable." i mean, charlie's not fancy, but damn if isabel wasn't!

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  18. I tried to comment on my phone twice yesterday and it ate it both times :(

    You two look great and I'd bet it has a lot to do with your slow and methodical approach with him. Not pushing too much and being fair while introducing him to new things is really working out well.

    As for a packer...I've dealt with complicated for 7 years and am burnt out for sure. I don't think I'd ever do well with a dead head, but a packer with quirks is in my future.

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  19. Those jumps look SO easy for him (but so big when you're in the saddle). Good on you for sticking with him the whole way. Confidence is a tough one and there isn't anything consistent right now that gives me that confidence over big fences. I've only trotted Mae over jumps and she pays them no mind so maybe *maybe* this horse will bring my confidence back

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  20. I'm with you on the confidence from routine. I totally get that, now that you say it like that. "I know what's up, and I know what to expect. If I can make a thing feel like it's no big deal, eventually it becomes self fulfilling prophecy." I do the same to create issues: he might stop at this jump, I ride timid, so he stops at this jump.
    I'm glad Charlie might be turning into a packer. They can be fun, you can really focus on yourself and such. Although, something with quirks can keep it interesting. Cosmo falls in between, he will jump anything, from just about anywhere, IF I am doing my part and riding/supporting him. He is experienced enough to know his job, athletic enough to get us out of sticky situations, but smart enough to make me work for it so we don't get into too many tricky spots. He keeps me honest and working HARD. ALL. THE. TIME. But I love it.

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  21. Your trainer P sounds a lot like my trainer P. They both flex our comfort zones when we have issues with confidenc and don't settle for 'good enough' when they know we can do better. Believe me I know what it's like to have a horse ready for the next step but not having the confidence for it.
    Maybe one day your blog will be Got My Shit Together Eventing!!! That would be really awesome.

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